How are you with having your photo taken?
For me, it used to be traumatic. I would do all I could to avoid the camera. I just didn’t like what was reflected back at me, because all I could see was my size. I would shudder and felt just dreadful.
There’s a photo of me, upstairs on my daughter’s bedroom wall. I’m holding my friends new baby, I’m wearing a short sleeved T shirt and my upper arms look really wide. Years ago, I HATED that photo. In my head it looked shameful, somehow. I had ‘let myself go’ and I looked awful.
Something that my clients often talk about is photos of themselves when they were younger. I include myself in this too! I had many pictures taken in my youth where I can distinctly remember feeling fat and ugly and like I needed to lose weight. Now, looking back, I realise that this was the time in my life where I was probably at my thinnest, but I spent all that time feeling like I wasn’t good enough (or thin enough).
Women say to me:
- “If only I realised then, how good I looked!”
- “I don’t know what I was worried about!”
- They can see, in retrospect, how pointless it was.
Last weekend I went away to Edinburgh with some of my ‘Mum friends’ from school. I couldn’t help but notice how one of them was very critical of her appearance in the photos. She would look at whatever photo it was and would literally zoom in on herself, (by making the photo bigger and taking everyone else out!), and examine how she looked. This would be followed by a remark about her coat, or her face, or her wrinkles, or how she was aging. I reflected on this because, initially, I was quite surprised, but actually, this is what most of us do when we look at photos of ourselves. We automatically scan for the negative. It’s human nature. We focus on the bits we don’t like, rather than the bits we do like.
This reminds me of one of my workshop participants, she talked about a photo she was in that she found really difficult to deal with. It was a photo of her and a family friend she loves to bits and they were hugging. She hated how her face looked in that photo, yet realised there was much more going on in the photo than that. She knew it was a moment in time and the image was capturing that moment and the love between them, so to narrow it down just to how her face looked at that point in time missed the point.
For years, I didn’t let myself be photographed and then slowly, as I became more confident about my relationship with food and my body, and as a consequence, my place in the world, I have started to fool around with photos. I take selfies, for goodness sake, and publish them on my Facebook page. When I’m having my hair dyed, or when I’m red and sweaty after a workout or a run. This week I took pictures of myself in the gym wearing tight lycra, because I want to show people that we don’t all have to be a certain size to show up in the world.
It’s okay to have bodies of different shapes and sizes, it’s okay to have a body that changes as you get older and more than that, you are JUST AS VALID as a person, whatever you look like now, compared to what you looked like before.